‘Ancient institution of the pub’ being put at risk by high tax 

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‘Ancient institution of the pub’ is being put at risk by high tax and cheap supermarket drinks, claims Wetherspoon boss

The outspoken boss of Wetherspoon says that the ‘ancient institution of the pub’ is at risk due to sky-high taxes.

As he revealed sales are still below pre-pandemic levels despite a surge over Christmas, Tim Martin said the disparity between taxes on pubs and supermarkets was the ‘biggest threat’ to a recovery from Covid.

He argued that supermarkets can sell beer on the cheap because they pay no VAT on food sales, whereas pubs and restaurants pay 20 per cent. 

Struggle: Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin (pictured) said the disparity between taxes on pubs and supermarkets was the ‘biggest threat’ to a recovery from Covid

And he lambasted rivals for not pushing the issue. Martin said: ‘Unless the industry campaigns strongly for equality, it will inevitably shrink relative to supermarkets, which will not help high streets, tourism, the economy overall, or the ancient institution of the pub.’

Wetherspoon said sales in the 12 weeks to January 22 were 17.8 per cent up on the same period a year earlier – but down 2 per cent on pre-pandemic levels. 

Despite ‘far higher’ energy, staff and food costs than before the pandemic, Martin was ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the chain’s fortunes.

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